For some months now I’ve been giving thought to the issue that my relationship with my primary writing tool has become overly complicated. This may be one of those crazy artist things to worry about, but whether it is or not, it’s a simple fact that when I sit down with the tools of my trade, my cognitive processes should be focused on the task at hand. When I break out the canvas, the easel, and the brushes, it’s to paint. When I sit down at a sewing machine, it’s to
swear sew. When I turn on a camera, it’s to take photographs. But when I bring myself to the keyboard with the intention of writing, there are just so many other things my computer is capable of doing besides running Word. Worse is that many of them are necessary, important, or tangibly rewarding at the very least in their own ways.
This means that, on some level, it’s not possible for me to think of my computer as a writing device because I can’t divorce my mental associations of it from all of the other things I use it for. Which, in turn, means that when I’m trying to devote a particular block of time or word goal to writing on it, I can’t entirely get myself into the mindset that I am, in fact, either an artist creating or a professional at work. Unfortunately, I seem to need that focus.
I’ve tried a few approaches to this problem. I thought perhaps if I created a dedicated work space in the home, that going there would help induce the proper mindset. That’s fine, as far as it goes; but for various reasons, I can’t always be there when I’m writing. I’ve tried the good old-fashioned pen-and-notebook solution. Since there’s nothing else those are for, just making words, it’s a pure relationship. Again, this is fine, but there are limitations. I can jot down notes, draft scenes, freeform mental images this way – but I can’t engage in the rather involved process of bringing a multi-chapter novel together, not when the bulk of the work, my references, and my notes are stored on my hard drive. I may not like it, but the computer is an essential tool of my craft.
So it started to seem to me that the solution might lie in another direction. Perhaps a home desktop computer to perform all of the necessary functions other than writing? Macro. Or maybe a simple tablet device used only for writing (and perhaps, at most, as an e-reader,) leaving my laptop (Alucard) free for everything else? Micro. Of course I discussed these options with Mr. Technology, tentatively arriving at the conclusion that a tablet made the most sense for my needs. And of course, being Tim, he had to over-engineer a solution to my problem.
This has all been a lead-in to the news that I’ve spent the past week trying to find a place and purpose in my life for the ASUS tablet with which he surprised me as an anniversary/ very late birthday present. The reason it has proven difficult is because it is far more machine than I needed for the uses I’ve outlined. If there’s a function you could expect from a portable computing device, this thing does it. It’s got the internets, the YouTubes, the Netflix, the SatNav, the Skype. It e-reads. It plays music (with speakers better than the junk on my laptop.) It runs all the time-wasting apps I’ll never need. It checks the weather (unnecessarily. I’m in Phoenix; I know perfectly well what the bloody weather is doing.) It’s an 8MP camera. It’s got voice recognition. I haven’t even explored half of the nonsense this thing is capable of. Oh, and, let’s add that it has a vivid, crystal-sharp display so it’s nice for looking at my photography. And because it is capable of remotely synching to my computer, thereby giving me access to all of my files and programs, I can write on it too.
So… where does that leave it in the toolkit? Where does that leave the laptop? At this point, I still just don’t know.
Obviously, both have their strengths and limitations, but the point of this entire operation was to simplify my relationship with my writing device, not to introduce a complicated realm of new options. I appreciate the thought behind the gift, of course, but it’s giving me a headache. I’ve spent the past week trying to learn the ins and outs of the tablet (she’s named Varda) in an effort to figure out how best to integrate it into my routine. The most logical thing to do, given its various capabilities, would be to use it as my internet device and retire Alucard from that function so we can focus on writing together. But the tablet remains just a little bit unwieldy in that regard, and anyway my people don’t handle change very well.
And this is really one of the most pointless posts I have ever written. I’m angsting over my “relationship” with my electronic equipment.
This is what my life has come to.